I am standing at the cash register at the end of the lunch counter at the Peach Pit. My bill totals $19.90 (including a 10% gratuity). I swipe my credit card and the tiny LCD screen asks me to enter my billing zip code in order to complete the transaction.
I slowly enter 5-0-0-2-3 and I am reprimanded by the message: “Incorrect zip code, purchase denied.” I shake my head and mumble something thankfully incomprehensible to the extremely attractive cashier.
I then swipe my card a second time and when prompted, I slowly enter 5-0-0-2-1 and I am rewarded by the message: “Purchase approved, have a nice day.”
I take my receipt, slip on my sunglasses, and slowly stroll out of the diner and into the warm California sun where Cindy, Brandon, and Brenda are waiting for me . . .
I don’t live in Beverly Hills, 90210. I grew up in Everett, 02149 – a northern suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. I now live in Ankeny – a northern “suburb” of Des Moines, Iowa. Until a few years ago, the sprawling metropolis that Ankeny isn’t (by any stretch of my overactive imagination) had but a single zip code – 50021.
The housing boom coupled with a change in zoning laws lead to farm land being purchased and transformed into residential properties. The United States Postal Service then deemed Ankeny worthy of being divided into two postal zones and me and my fellow citizens of the swanky southern part of the town now found ourselves sporting the new zip code of 50023.
I immediately updated all of my billing addresses, including with the credit card company that guest starred in the reality-based fictional opening scene of this post.
Since I am an obsessive-compulsive data quality expert, you can probably imagine how much it irks me to be informed by tiny LCD screens that I am not providing accurate billing information.
Since I know quite well that updates to postal certification databases lag behind when the changes actually occur and that not every company applies those updates as soon as they do become available, I was willing to let the issue slide for a little while.
But years have now literally passed since this zip code change has taken place. And numerous telephone calls to the customer service department of the credit card company in question have provided me with countless assurances that my billing address has been updated in all of their systems.
However, every time I swipe my credit card at the Machine Shed (not quite as nice as the fictional Peach Pit, but still one of my favorite Iowa restaurants none the less), I play data quality roulette with my billing zip code – and I haven’t won a game yet.
I am always interested to hear stories about DQ-IRL (data quality in real life).
Please share some of your stories.
Who knows, maybe we can even build a crowdsourced screenplay for a new hit television series. I think “Data Quality, 50023” sounds like a catchy title . . .